Ranger, a  6-month old Labrador is joining the New York Rangers this season to learn how to become a professional service dog for children with autism. BluePath, a nonprofit that trains autism service dogs, has partnered with the New York Rangers to raise awareness of autism and service dogs, reports US Weekly. “Over the course of the year, Ranger will go through training to learn the unique skills it takes to be a service dog and to be the perfect teammate for a family in need,” reports the New York Rangers on their website.

Image: BluePath

Ranger will accompany Saxon Eastman, his puppy raiser, to Madison Square Garden every day and will attend the New York Rangers team practices and games, according to BluePath. Through his yearly training with the Rangers, Ranger will have the opportunity to socialize with fans and practice the skills he needs to become a great autism service dog.

Ranger has received a warm welcome from his team members and New York Rangers fans. Kevin Shattenkirk, Defenseman for the New York Rangers, commented “might be my new favorite teammate! Welcome to the team Ranger!” on Ranger’s twitter post. On Ranger’s Instagram post, @masoncooper42 commented, “As an autistic rangers fan. This makes me smile. A lot.”

Image: New York Rangers

For children with autism, the comfort and companionship of a well-trained dog can serve as the catalyst for remarkable changes in sleeping, eating and social behaviors,” reports BluePath on their website. BluePath dogs go through several training phases before they become professional autism service dogs. At eight-weeks-old, the puppies are taught basic obedience skills by their puppy raiser. The dogs learn advanced skills at 14 months of age. The skills they learn include “visit”, in which the dog learns to provide support to a child by resting her/his head on the child, and”anchoring”, in which the dog learns how to stop the child from wandering. BluePath dogs are trained to respond to children with many different kinds of disabilities. The last phase of the training involves the placement of the dog with a child and family.




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